Traveling during the coronavirus pandemic - opinion

Traveling as we knew it has changed...

THE WRITER embraces her husband as she sheds tears at the airport. (photo credit: HADASSAH CHEN)
THE WRITER embraces her husband as she sheds tears at the airport.
(photo credit: HADASSAH CHEN)
 I could see myself already hugging her and kissing her and I couldn’t wait any longer. My mum was alone this year in Milan for Passover, my dad stuck in Montreal because he is Canadian and trying to get his vaccination there; if he went back to Italy he wouldn’t get the second Pfizer dose.
“This year it will be like this,” mum wrote in the family Whatsapp group, each one of us separate, “it’s a new world, kids, and we have to adapt.”
“Only I can,” I wrote followed by a million happy emojis and smiley faces.
“We Israelis are ahead of all of you, and I will come to Italy with the family, I will save the family as much as I can, I will bring joy and freedom fresh from Israel.”
All this enthusiasm and heroics, however, were abruptly stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport when very gently, an Israeli security agent explains to me that the Italian government has rejected entry for the whole family. If I want, I can travel alone.
You must be kidding; I turn around and see my kids all equipped, ready for the flight looking at me in shock as I am literally exploding in a child’s cry in front of half of the personnel at the airport.
“Mami is crying,” I hear my little one whisper to their sister.
“Please, I beg you, let me talk to someone in Italy,” I urge the Israeli who keeps answering me with a strong accent. But he persists: “I am sorry, it is not our decision.”
I feel like I am having a nervous breakdown, I have worked two weeks to collect all papers needed for us to fly, including COVID tests, vaccine certificates printed, a working letter invitation from Milan, Italian birth certificate...
I literally had a folder with me at the check-in counter, plus all passports, passport covers, stickers, pens etc...
“I repeat, Mrs. Chen, if you want you can board this flight alone – and you must decide now as we are about to close the gate.”
I TURN to my family and see my older daughters hugging me, “Go ma, we will take care of everyone here, you wanted so much to see your mum.” My husband who had been silent until now in shock comes toward me and gently whispers, “Go darling, I will stay with the kids, you wanted so much to go, we will be okay.”
My two youngest ones are holding my skirt and not letting me go while they repeat what the older ones say, go mami go. As I turn my face from them I see the airport guy’s face in front of mine. In five minutes we are closing the flight, he repeats, as if he is enjoying this dramatic moment.
I was torn between love for my family and the desperate longing to hug my mum, who’s home alone for Passover with my sister. How can I leave them? We were already in the middle of Passover, we had spent the first days with my husband’s family at my sister-in-law’s house in Carmit, where we all had an amazing time, and now I was so excited to take my kids to my mother in Milan, lockdown... corona in full swing there... but home!
Where will they go, what will they do, how can I leave them in the middle of the holiday? Our own house was off-limits; it was not cleaned for Passover.
Is it selfish of me to just board that plane, or is it selfish of me not to go to mum even if I go alone, knowing she is so looking forward to seeing me?
What do I do?
My husband puts my suitcase on the belt to be tagged, I give my passport to check-in, and after five seconds I take it back.
Sorry, I can’t leave, I will cry the whole way and back. I can’t leave you now, I am staying.
They take off my suitcase and close the flight.
Bye, bye Milan.
Kids are hugging me with joy, I am sobbing as if I just missed the Titanic.
“Get me some Italian diplomat on the phone now!” I scream after a coffee, the fourth cry on my husband’s shoulder, and after taking a breath of fresh air; now I am ready to fight.
Thanks to an angel named Yossi (not my husband) I get contacted by the consul of Italy in Tel Aviv.
“Signora Hadassah,” he greets me on the phone and gently calms me, “I will check now and see what the situation is, give me an hour.” In the meantime, the housekeeper at my mum’s home in Milan is calling me wanting to know what is going on.
Teresa is her name, she has been working at our home for the past 27 years. She puts me on speaker so my mum can hear me, in Italy it is still chag (the part of the holiday with religious restrictions which include the prohibition against speaking on the phone), I start crying, and I hear my mother crying too, and Teresa starts crying as well!
Teresa says my mum is happy that I chose to stay with Yossi and the kids. That was the right choice.
Yes, it was. I know it.
That’s it, the world has changed, we cannot plan, we cannot choose, we cannot guarantee anything anymore.
We have to accept, pray, obey and know that God runs the world and all He does is for the best.
It’s not easy when we have been accustomed to just do what we want, without asking anyone permission.
That was the problem I guess, the world was getting out of hand. Too much freedom?
We have gone back to the future, but we embrace new feelings and emotions that had seemed to have gone.
We treasure family and relationships more.
We trust God more and ourselves less.
We have become more spiritual and less physical.
Phone rings again, “Signora Hadassah,” I hear on the other end of the line, “you are registered according to our papers as your mother’s sister, with Canadian residency and an Israeli passport. You are a mess.”
Thank you.
Do these things happen only to me, or is it the Italian bureaucracy that is a disaster, or a combination of both?
I love Italians but let them just deal with fashion and cars.
After four hours of calls with the Italian Embassy, I am exhausted and hungry. I give up.
We will not fly for the last part of the holidays to Italy, but I get a promise from the sweetest consul ever, who had already taken my case to heart, that he will send me to Italy right after Passover, that he will help me solve my case and make me and my children all Italian, finally.
I feel like I am in Gone with the Wind...
Tomorrow is a new day...
Our improvised last-minute Israel Passover turned out to be incredible, we have done things a true Israeli family does, like exploring our beautiful land and riding horses in the desert and spending time with the in-laws, who had finally opened their house again to us kids.
“I am so happy you didn’t come here in the end, darling,” my mum says to me on the phone as soon as we can talk, “Italy is in full lockdown.
“I am waiting for you when you can come and we will make you Italian. I am the only proof you are my daughter and you were born here in Milan, my love.”
Yes, get the pasta ready, as we say in Italian, I’ll be there soon.
You see, it’s all for the better, now finally we will straighten out my situation and hopefully, Italy will soon get out of corona too and traveling will again be like it was before when I took a plane even just to have a good espresso with my parents, together!
We should all have a great summer together with our loved ones. 
The writer is from Italy, lives in Jerusalem and heads HadassahChen Productions. A director and performer, she also heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation, in memory of her daughter, to assist families with sick children. [email protected]